The referee who disallowed Tonga’s last minute try in their game against England last year has announced his retirement.
Matt Cecchin told the BBC he had been the target of “vile abuse” and had received “hundreds and hundreds” of death threats.
As Kaniva News reported last year, Cecchin disallowed a last minute try by Andrew Fifita which would have given Tonga victory and secured their place in the Rugby League World Cup final against Australia.
He ruled that Fifita had lost the ball before regathering and planting it over the try line.
Cecchin’s ruling caused widespread outrage among Tongan fans and a call by a Tongan lawyer for the decision to be reversed.
The referee said New Zealand Police warned him to stay in his hotel after the game.
Cecchin said he would retire at the end of the year because the intense public criticism was affecting his home life.
Members of his family had received death threats.
The referee told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation his Sydney home, his son’s home in Adelaide and his mother’s in Perth were all placed on high alert after the semi-final between Tonga and England last year.
“It surprised me … the magnitude and the disproportionate response I got from making a call at the end of the game that thankfully was right — I often sit back and wonder ‘wow what if that was wrong?'” he said.
Cecchin, who has judged 300 games, said top referees were under immense psychological pressure and did not have the support players did.
He said the pressure and public backlash could take a huge toll.
“As a group we are focused so much on our physical attributes and knowing the rules — we have done very little with mental health,” he told the ABC.
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